If a cat sparks a conversation about west coast rappers, who’s the first dude that pops into your head? Hopefully not Tupac, because he was a New York transplant, like it or not. Unless your 16 years old, Ice Cube finds a way into the discussion, if it goes on long enough. His new album, I Am The West, is a bold statement, showing that even Cube himself is aware that he personifies not only an entire coast, but is basically the forefather of the gangster rap movement. For what it’s worth, he may be the West’s Rakim Allah, respect-wise.
Thing is…Ice Cube wasn’t a gangster in the slightest. O’shea Jackson was attending college in Phoenix, Arizona when Eazy made him an offer that he obviously couldn’t refuse. N.W.A. ( & the posse) had already released their first album which earned some swap meet, trunk sales money, but Eazy-E had bigger plans for the group, minus some people. The end result was Eazy, MC Ren, Dr. Dre, DJ Yella, (post college) Ice Cube & Arabian Prince. The D.O.C. became an honorary member a little down the road. MC Ren was a beast in his own right, but he wasn’t the storyteller Cube was, thusly, Ice Cube ended up writing Eazy-E’s rhymes, as well as his own. Cube was so good at ghostwriting for a young Eric Wright that, for years, most people had no idea that Cube penned E’s verses. Verses that sounded like Eazy was writing the shit at the exact moment he “grabbed the stupid bitch by her basket weave.”
Although Cube become politically charged as he grew as a rapper, the things he rapped about, pre-Bomb Squad, were simply not true. & he never pretended they were. If I’m not mistaken, in the interview he did with Dee Barnes (the one that got her Dre-slapped)), Cube said he was a product of his environment, & reported what he saw to the fans. Yet & still, he was never called a fraud, a front, or a liar. Goes to show that Hip Hop once respected the art of storytelling, shout out to Ricky Walters.
Somewhere between political activist & Hollywood star, it seems Cube may have drank a little too much of his own Kool-Aid, though. Not that he’s too old to still rap, after all, age ain’t nothing but a number, but to come out flailing at the land he helped build is a Cube I thought was left back in his gangsta, killa, dope deala days. Then again, conflict & chaos sell just as well as nipples & ass dimples, so I’ll never blame a man for making it do what it will. Only a fool would think otherwise. & if you trace Ice Cube’s steps all the way back to ‘A Bitch Is A Bitch‘, it’s apparent this dude is far from a fool. In fact, I’ll even excuse the fact that he played Dough Boy in every movie he’s ever been in, in light of his legendary status as a pioneer.
Shit, he may very well be the flame needed underneath the West Coast to get us back on the map again. His “old man shaking his fist at the kids” routine has sparked responses from U-N-I to Jay Rock & everybody in between. Matter of fact, Jay-Z did something similar, & then called himself the reigning king of NY until we got tired of hearing it. & we see where that got him. Just saying.
‘I AM THE WEST’ is the name of my new record…This shit is cocky, no apologies, west coast gangsta shit. I can’t help it. That’s what I do…”-Ice Cube via IceCube.com
Seems that O’shea Jackson has finally decided to do what he should’ve been doing for years. At least as long as Dr. Dre has been doing it, according to my guesstimation. Maybe even more so, based on his past alliances, which predate any Death Row Records releases & spanned clear across the USA, before such activities were the trendy thing to do. Back then, Ice Cube, Brother J & Chuck D were the last three niggas a White man would want to meet in a dark alley. Back then, Cube’s gangsta defiance straddled the Black power/street knowledge line with perfection.
Then suddenly, he was beefing with his old label (Ruthless Records-helmed by Jerry Heller & Eric Wright), biting the hands that fed him, & making movies, for man, woman & child alike. But that’s neither here nor there. According to Ice Cube, he’s returning, to save “us” from ourselves, & bring the West Coast back, whether we agree or not. But see, I know a few people that wouldn’t necessarily be so quick to hail him as “the appointed one.”
Meet Mack 10, J. Dee, Short Khop, Kay Dee & Kausion. All former “employees” of Jackson’s various entertainment companies over the years. All drowned in obscurity, or are carefully treading water, without so much as a shout out from Ice Cube. Not that my ear’s to the business end of the music, but that’s kinda a bad look for a dude on a mission to convince an entire coast that he’s our savior. OG or otherwise. With such legendary status, one would assume that Cube could just release some new heat, without the boasts & proclamations that may get him labeled a hypocrite. Word on the L.A. streets is (& has always been) that Cube is an even less-fair boss than Andre Young. Which would explain why every new artist he broke-no pun intended-went their separate way in no time. But I digress.
For the most part, gangsta rap is dead. I’ve said that if anyone could bring it back, it would be 50 Cent. But telling broads to get rich off his dime & his sperm is not at all gangsta, so no dice there. Ice Cube may be on some stem-cell, clone research shit with this one.
Point blank, the West Coast sound has evolved. Like it or not. Bishop Lamont, Glasses Malone, Blu, U-N-I, Fashawn, even Nipsey Hu$$le & Game are today’s youthful explosions of expression. Ice Cube is more or less the disconnected uncle who, while sage & wise, is from another era. Period. With all due respect, a dinosaur, if you will. Dinosaur, in the sense that, while still “dangerous”, new weapons have been designed that render a dinosaurs strong points ineffective, if you smell my cologne. A vicious roar can be frightening, but a single shot from a .50 caliber hand cannon is much, much scarier.
I’m old enough to appreciate Cube’s contributions to Hip Hop, & more specifically, West Coast gangsta music. That said, I’d much rather him, or any other originator, go out on a high note, rather than flail for relevance in an industry that puts expiration dates on niggas’ press packets. Just saying. I figured his son would be rapping by now, really though. That might actually be the smarter move. Just saying.